The hiking trip to the forest had once seemed like a great idea–a dare–but now, it felt horribly wrong.
The forest seemed rather bleak with the tall trees blocking out the sunlight completely. The air was heavy and sounds felt muted somehow, until all we could hear was our own heartbeat. Even the birds that were chirping outside seemed to have deserted the forest in search of happier places. Our otherwise rambunctious group was now too silent. The crunching sound our feet made on the forest floor felt like an open invitation to…
Though we couldn’t be sure of what.
Turning back felt like a wise decision though nobody wanted to say it out loud. It would be admitting defeat. So we all walked along, no longer cracking jokes and too aware of our surroundings. There was a feeling of being followed the moment we stepped in, and as we went deeper, the feeling became stronger, until it was so overpowering like a serpent sitting on our chest. We walked in a tight group and kept sneaking glancing behind us.
And that’s when a twig cracked behind us. A flock of birds took off. And suddenly, everybody started screaming and running in all directions.
A stag walked out of the bushes behind us, looking scandalized.
A couple of months back, I came back to my bedroom to find that I wasn’t the only woman in the room. A very pretty young lady had decided that my place was good enough to spend the night. She was resting against one of the pillars in her absolutely stunning dress in shimmering golden-coppery-green.
It made me slightly jealous–She was definitely returning from the disco, because there was no other excuse for such a dress. I, on the other hand, haven’t stepped out of my house since December 2019, thanks to COVID 19.
Also, that meant she had not been following the social distancing rules, mingling with people. She had no mask. So I, with a self-righteous air, told her to leave. She was probably too drunk to get me, because she stayed right where she was. So, I had to bodily remove her from my premises. But I couldn’t forget the dress…yeah, I know, typical woman! 😁
Lately, their have been further additions to my daughter’s 1m x 1m ranch. The last time I posted, she already created super-beings like Dragons and Dinosaurs, who crunched on our furniture and hovered around our heads, and I was beginning to worry about world safety. Now she has moved her exploration to the smaller variety of creepy-crawler type.
Let me introduce you to her only invertebrate pet. He walks all day and doesn’t stop to talk much since it is such a waste of breath. So, we never got around to making introductions.
Her first amphibian is rather a shy person and prefers to hide under his shell all day. It is a wise choice considering the other pets my daughter is creating
This is “Hisssss”(that’s the only name he can pronounce). He joined our ranch last week and has been after Mathew and his progeny ever since. Mathew has been complaining about animal rights and about our prior peace treaty. I told him the clause about “not buying poison” does not include “not inviting snakes”.
These mommy and baby crocodiles have been complaining about the lack of a fish tank in our house from day one and we are hard-pressed to buy one to stop them from eating our other pets. They have also requested for a plover bird to clean their teeth. Talk about high maintenance pets!
There are also some animals from the cute variety.
Here’s the rabbit who has been hiding in my iron safe ever since the snake and crocs appeared.
Caribou, the red-nosed reindeer, is on a vacation before Christmas.
We are expecting some winter guests soon including Flamingos and Cranes. I’ll let you know if they turn up.
Kara was sitting on the water tank on the roof with the lost look on his face, that I have become accustomed to, ever since his latest batch of eggs hatched. This time I decided to ask, “Hey, what’s with the long face?”
For the few seconds he took, I thought he wouldn’t reply at all. When he did, there was a sigh in his voice, “I’m worried about the youngest one.”
“What happened? Did he fall off the nest?” That would explain his worried face. But he shook his head, “No, he is careful and obedient–just the child any parents would ask for. I just think, he’s not getting the right role model.”
I thought if the number of times I had thought the same about my baby, “Don’t be silly! You and your wife are dedicated parents and a loving couple. How could you not be a good role model?” He hesitated and I could see he was considering whether to just take off without answering. “Yeah! But our voices are…rather different from him. He tries to imitate us but fails…it leaves him frustrated and sad.”
Out of everything I had expected, thus wasn’t in the list. I was confused, “I think I’m mising something here. How could your voice be different from your child’s? Is it because he is still young and his voice unbroken? You can tell him it is just a matter of time…”
A pregnant silence ensued before he answered the question, sounding hesitant and repentant, as if he was sorry for having talked at all. “It isn’t that. His voice is…shrill…Ever heard of a cuckoo? They often break one of the crow’s eggs and leave their own egg behind. There was a cuckoo in our area when our eggs came about…”
That must have been difficult, to suspect having raised the child of their baby’s murderer, “So, you suspect your youngest is the cuckoo’s baby?”
Resigned, he admitted, “We know he is. Knew it from the first day. Both I and wife saw the broken egg below the tree, but what could have we done? Thrown him out of the nest, out of our lives, like his own parents did? Let him die without experiencing love?
We thought we are doing the right thing by taking him in. But now, we are worried if we are the right role models. All the kids laugh at him at his inability for crow-speak, when he coos in the weird cuckoo voice. We try to rationalise it in front of him, but I think he is beginning to understand that he is different and it hurts him.” He was speaking more to himself than me. “We have been arguing over whether to tell him the truth. The wife is afraid the truth will hurt him deep. She’s afraid to lose him.
But I feel he is already hurting too much–the constant failure to become what he clearly isn’t, to conform with family, to accept himself with all the differences–is proving to be too much for him. I want to tell him the truth before we lose him altogether.”
“But you haven’t. Why?”
When he answered, tears bubbled up in his eyes, “What if he decides that he doesn’t want us anymore? I’m afraid to lose him…”
The guy often flies pretty close to the ground and I can often take clear pictures of him from my roof while he makes baby deliveries. He was rather pleased with his last post–It brought him quite a lot of fans, so he is posing for more.
If you notice, the picture is looking doen upon this flying beauty. It is because I am on my fourth story roof and he flying at third story level.
There is famous piece of poetry in Urdu that says, “Har shaakh pe Ullu baithe h, Anjam-e-Gulista kya hoga.” (Owls sit on each branch, I fear for the fate of my beautiful country–that it would turn into ruins).
I had assumed, considering owls as a harbinger of bad luck was a common misunderstanding in India against the gentle creature, who does nothing but sleep all day and hoot sweetly at night. My belief was further strengthened when I saw a couple of Spotted Owlets on the tree next door. They are wee creatures, barely 8 inches, sitting in the tree hooting serenely or sleeping on the electric wires across the road.
One evening while I was walking up the stairs to the roof, I heard a weird screech. I had been hearing this screech ever since my first night here five years back. It gave me goosebumps everytime, and had reminded me of witches, giving me too many nightmares. Gradually, I had assumed that it was a Night Heron along the banks of Yamuna river or something on similar lines, but definitely far away, and definitely huge.
Hearing this screech, Curiosity propelled me up the stairs in half the time and I opened the door to the roof silently. Surprise! There was this eight-inch creature sitting on a pole. He was screeching at the top of his lungs until his friend flew out of the tree to meet him. He saw me, and flew away to party with his companion.
Well, so much for being gentle…I can now see how Owls earned their reputation in India! They are Dr Jakyll by the day, and Mr Hyde at night.
Kingfishers are a common sight where I live. Though weirdly, there are no fishes in here. I’ve seen them feed on dragon flies and bees. May be they should be renamed as Bee-eaters but the real Bee-eaters might get offended…
In an attempt to give my daughter company during her ‘painting’ escapades, I created this on a rough page with her wax colours. Then she decided the rest of page wasn’t colourful enough and added stuff of her own. I would have kept it too, but leaving a Kingfisher in company of a Lion is rather cruel.
So I cut it out of the paper.
Then she wanted to ‘take a closer look’, so I took a picture to immortalize it in case she decided to go ninja on him.
It hassss been a difficult year–the god of rain hassss been relentlessss. Every other night, water gurglessss down my home driving me up a wall…or rather a tree.
So, here I wassss up on a tree again, waiting for the godssss to stop showering their blessingssss down on ussss, when the aroma hit me. I couldn’t help a peep inside the window next to me. There she wassss again, walking on the thin window ssssill in that tentalizing way that issss trademark of women who know the power they wield over men.
Had I been a mouse like her, I wouldn’t have been able to resisssst her.
So many timessss, I had seen her walk on that ledge. But today, I wasssss having a difficult time resisting her too…I wassss hungry. I had been on a hunt when the rain started pelting down and it hadn’t stopped all night. It issss close to dawn now, and my stomach wassss growling. This mansion has too many mice, which is a temptation, and but it also has too many humans–the only reason I had never hunted here.
They kill our kind the instant they spot any of ussss.
But at this time of the night, they would be deep asleep. I could just get in and walk out with a snack within minutessss! Nobody will be any wiser…my stomach growled in agreement. So, I reached out to the open window and slithered down in the room where three humans, rather two and a quarter, were deep asleep. Their body heat was too low for them to be awake and become a threat.
So, I followed the irresistible aroma of good food running around the floor. A few secondssss later, I was on the top step of stairs leading straight to heaven…down to the kitchen where the rats seemed to be having a feast. In an unthinking moment, I followed.
I was rather sleepy, moving in a food-induced trance, when I reached the bottom step. Damn! A human up too early…I hurried up a rack and inside a box that ssssmelled of old leather, hoping she hadn’t noticed me. Alassss! She called out on the top of her voice for reinfrcementssss.
There were sound of steps running down the stairssss and coming out of the inner room, and lot of shouting, and a bit of maniac giggling…(Some of these humanssss are plain weird!)
Suddenly, the box I was in moved, and I had an odd feeling of having left my stomach behind. I could feel the box sssspinning with me in it as it zoomed into the air and fell on the street outside. I quickly slithered out into darknessss before it was too late. I could hear loud thudssss of stonessss falling around me as I ran into cover. My tail had a scratch, and I wassss still hungry, but at least in one piece, which wassss a miracle considering my stupidity.
I am never going anywhere close to humanssss again. Let those mice take over their mansionssss, eat their food, chomp on their clothessss, bite them in fingerssss…that will really show these stupid humanssss…
Painting is my first love. A picture on Unsplash.com lead me to create this sketch.
Out of all the birds I have seen here, I have always missed the unassuming little sparrows. There was a time when they abounded Indian cities but the loss of habitat led to a devastating decrease in their numbers. I hadn’t seen any in ten years. So, this year, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw them hopping around at a cousin’s place in my city.
Their spy network is the best in world. Their eyes are everywhere looking for hidden contraband. We have tried hiding ‘stuff’ from them in places never heard of before, but without success. Somehow, they always find it, and confiscate it for further investigation, and then detain it to run the smell and taste tests to ensure they are indeed edible.
Long story short, we never see it again.
It is indeed a war of wits between me and an army of passionate foodies. Once I open a box of anything edible, I spot one of them scouting around. I try hiding the food, immediately covering it to break the spell…the smell. But it is already too late.
Within seconds, a chain reaction begins. Each of them tells another on the way, and a line begins forming around the box–sharp eyes, sharp stings, shopping bags at the ready; looking for a way to break through the barriers and reach the on-Sale items within.
The trick is to move the ‘stuff’ around so it isn’t sitting in the same place for more than a few minutes.
Sometimes I win, but mostly, I try to act like I don’t mind them gobbling down my food. As if I can stop them if I want. Just a perspective change rather then admit defeat…
Sometimes, you just don’t know what to say to a uninvited guest, specially someone who is all decked up for the occasion.
When this guy showed up on the pretext of ‘just being around and curious of the huge doll house’, it was clear that things were not as they seem to be.
Our cue: He was wearing a tailcoat. I hadn’t invited him to my marriage’s dinner celebration, did I?
The guy was unapologetic as he leaned on one wall and made small talk about the ‘nice green walls’ and improving ecology, clearly not in a hurry to leave anytime soon. I wondered what had actually brought him here, until I found his attention wavering towards the wall behind me too often and his smile becoming too charming…where Stella, the Spider, was weaving her new house that sparkled like a rainbow in the sunlight. It had also caught some cute dew drops from the night before–pearls of finest quality.
The guy dropped all pretence of making a conversation, looking at her unblinking. He had stopped breathing, I think.
I could clearly see where it would all lead. All I can say is that Stella has got herself a very willing catch!
Some of you might have heard of my post about the rebellion amongst the minions in my castle. Bees, wasps and spiders had taken over the place as a revenge for Eid-cleaning. We had been hiding out in the tunnel that Matthew, the rat, had built last year. In return, we had to promise to never use the not-so-poisonous rat poison that his kids were addicted to. He said it was disgraceful in extreme to find his kids rolling around the drains, and the new rats–that were moving in to try the ‘stuff’–were bad influence!
Well! So, we hid there for around a fortnight, until we were able to sign a peace treaty with the rebels. It includes the No Wall Cleaning, No Honey Usage and No Destruction of Web/Nest/Hive clauses.
I can finally truly empathize with Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter book. The way he confessed his fear for spiders. Remember the scene of Aragog’s lair? Spiders roughly the size of a car covering every inch of the space and crowding around the heroes clicking their pincers. It is my recurring dream now.
My three-year old daughter decided to commemorate the occasion(?) of treaty with the following painting.
You can see three humans–Me in the front, baby in the middle and W covering our backs– as we run away from the spiders that surround us.
And we end up running right into them, like a zombie horror show, alien attack or End-of-World movie. The pictures came too close for comfort!
If you find too many legs on each spider in the picture, I must remind you, my daughter is a pro, and takes creative liberty in her pieces. Moreover, it is the thought that counts. Eeeek!
The lockdown has shown us weird things, but this is weirdest of all. If you have have read the Minions, you probably already know the context of this war.
Our house is under attack.
Ever since the recent house cleaning during Bakrid holidays, we had sighted increased activity close to our borders. While the reaction from the Arachne clan was expected who lost several lives in the process, their alliance with the neighbouring Wasp and Bee clans is rather surprising.
For the past five years, we had refrained from open hostilities on either sides. Our relationship had been rather cordial. We’d allowed free passage to the visiting bees and wasps, and had traversed outside our house and beneath their trees without an incident. But lately, we have seen a change in the pattern on their side.
Suicide attacker bees have been entering our borders stinging unassuming and unprepared civilians. While it is rather crippling experience for some time, it seems to be a ruse to hide the unauthorised infiltration by wasps.
There have been unofficial sightings of wasps entering our borders and lingering longer than needed, in spite of clear laws against outstaying their welcome. We have also found several bunkers hiding young soldiers along with food supplies. All this has forced us to revisit our rules regarding our dealings with foreign personnel.
Amendment 1: Don’t pay heedSwipe with a broom if they enter.
Amendment 2: Escort to windowHit with shoes if they do not leave immediately.
Some residents have also noticed unusual activities on the outer railings and windows of our house that are becoming full of spider webs overnight. While it was a usual occurrence overtime, the duration has decreased twenty times and the impacted area has increased ten folds, making it look like a well-planned strategy.
Considering that spider webs are three times stronger than steel wires, and the doors are being guarded by wasps and bees, it seems that the three clans–Arachne, Wasp and Bee–plan to trap us inside the house by cutting off all avenues of retreat, to be slayed by the hidden wasp, bee and spider soldiers.
Unprepared, we are trying to fight back with whatever comes to hand–brooms, mops, shoes–but, clearly, we are fighting a losing battle, like Lord Voldemort’s men dealing with an army of house elves, not sure how to fight back their magic.
The future looks bleak. We might have to flee through the hidden tunnel that Matthew built earlier this year (that is, if it is not already sealed by the spiders)–and leave the house to the rebels.